2020 First Runner Up Essay, by Alyson (Aly) Diaz
‘‘It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.’’ - - Hubert Humphrey Jr. (D)
Former Vice President Humphrey’s words illustrate what it means to be a Democrat: standing up for the vulnerable and underrepresented, and for the values of equality, diversity, and unity. Defending those who otherwise would not have a voice in public policy is the Democratic party's role in the United States. Members of the party uplifted the voices of blue-collar and domestic workers, minority communities, the elderly, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and the poor, even when no one would listen. From the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movement to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Democrats were the champions of underrepresented communities. They took pride in their role. Unborn children are one of the most powerless individuals in our country, and mothers, especially single mothers, are often unprotected. Unfortunately, many Democrats have abandoned their fundamental beliefs, and Pro-Life advocates have been kicked out by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). DNC chairman, Tom Perez, defined the Democratic party stating, “every Democrat...should support a women’s right to choose” and has instituted litmus tests to exclude Pro-Life candidates and PACs ability to support them. What it means to be a Democrat has become synonymous with abortion rights, rather than symbolizing the commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of society.
The term Pro-Life Democrat is not an oxymoron. To neglect the unborn children and mothers is a sign of a party that has deviated from its founding principles. Many Democratic leaders once advocated for Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” stance on abortion, which at least acknowledged some Democrats’ moral uncertainties about the procedure. As the Pro-Choice movement grew more extreme and influential within the Democratic establishment, the party began to undermine its core values, many of those Democratic lawmakers lost their seats, and DNC now uses less-inclusive language when describing party platforms. There is no need for Pro-Life advocates to leave the party as they exemplify what it means to be a Democrat and are closer to the party’s initial position on abortion. Pro-life Democrats should not abandon their moral conscience, the party itself needs to change and recommit to the values of diversity and inclusion. Despite the DNC’s efforts to suppress their voices, 1 in 3 Democrats are Pro-Life, and only 13% Pro-Choice Democrats support abortion in all cases. Pro-life Democrats are being marginalized within their party for remaining loyal to their promise of protecting human life from conception to natural death.
Democrats value diversity, and finding common ground is an essential part of the party. The 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries featured candidates who identify as female, black, Latinx/Hispanic, and gay. While this is an achievement to celebrate, the active suppression of Pro-Life Democrats shows that the DNC's commitment to diversity is skin deep. The party has forgotten about the importance of diversity of thought, particularly when it comes to abortion. Recent Pew Research Center polls show that an estimated 25% of Democrats oppose same-sex marriage (https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/), yet party establishment has not instituted similar litmus tests for gay marriage opponents. They are still welcomed into the party because, except for this issue, they are unequivocally Democrats. Why should Democratic Pro-Life advocates be treated any differently? A party that celebrates racial diversity during its primaries must honor the diversity of thought within its members. The ideological divide between the two parties has widened; as a result, acceptance for differing opinions has fallen. Now more than ever, it is vital that the Democratic Party present a united front. The DNC needs to reconcile support for women’s bodily autonomy with religious beliefs and/or moral disagreement about abortion.
However, not all hope is lost. The Democratic party is remarkably resilient. As a party that recognizes that America is a very fortunate country, it pushes every American to be better. History shows that the failure to welcome Pro-Life advocates and unborn children is not the first time that the Democratic party has forgotten about the defenseless. The ugly side of Democratic history reminds us that for 150 years, Dixiecrats quelled African Americans’ rights under slavery and segregation. The Great Society's policies were a defining moment for the Democratic values of inclusivity, equality, and diversity. This moment serves as hope that one day Democrats will recognize the rights of unborn children—they deserve a place within the party. As advocates for the unborn and their rights, Pro-Life Democrats shall not stand alone.